A case now before the Supreme Court concerns the University of Michigan’s policy of using racial preferences in its admissions policy. The University of Michigan is also one of several universities highlighted in a May 19th Washington Post article which hold racially separate graduation events, in addition to their regular ceremonies. John H. McWhorter, a UC-Berkeley professor who opposes racial preferences, told the Post, “The fact that these ceremonies are so prevalent nicely shows that the common defense of racial preferences?that it puts whites and blacks on the same campus to learn about and become comfortable with each other?is senseless. On the contrary, campuses are precisely where many black students learn a new separatist conception of being ‘black’ that they didn’t have before.”
Holding a whites-only ceremony would be immediately denounced as racist by the media. Indeed, Fox News channel host Bill O’Reilly went on a tirade when he discovered that white students at a high school in Georgia, had held an all-white prom. He immediately demanded that the governor hold a news conference to denounce the event.
It turns out that blacks and whites had been holding their own proms for decades. These were private parties, not sanctioned by the schools. The Macon Telegraph quoted a student as saying, “It’s always been like that. We don’t see it as being a big deal.” Some speculate that O’Reilly took on the issue because he had been under attack for having made a racially insensitive comment about black youths at a fund-raising event for a group started by Bill Bennett’s wife Elaine. When a black singing group was late in arriving, O’Reilly joked to those at his table that he hoped they weren’t outside stealing hubcaps.
The silly controversy demonstrates how someone like O’Reilly, who is perceived by some to be a conservative, cannot afford to offend those committed to “diversity.” So he may have taken on the white proms as a way to atone for his perceived sins. But on the day that the Post highlighted the blacks-only college graduation ceremonies, we waited in vain for O’Reilly to denounce them on his show. That night, however, he was silent about the controversy.
The Post said the practice of blacks-only college ceremonies was quite extensive. It reported, “Vanderbilt University had a separate recognition ceremony for black graduates. Washington University in St. Louis hosted a black senior alliance ceremony. The University of Michigan and Michigan State University held black celebratory ceremonies. Stanford University will host a black graduation ceremony next month, and the University of California at Berkeley hosted its Black Graduation on Saturday. Many other schools also have special ceremonies honoring Latino and Asian students.”
It’s important to note that, in contrast to the private segregated proms held by the high school students, the segregated college graduation ceremonies are approved by the institutions themselves. That makes them far more serious.